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How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations are included Short Biography is also included Original & Unabridged Edition Tablet and e-reader formatted Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction Mary Barton is the first novel by English author Eliza How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations are included Short Biography is also included Original & Unabridged Edition Tablet and e-reader formatted Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction Mary Barton is the first novel by English author Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1848. The story is set in the English city of Manchester between 1839 and 1842, and deals with the difficulties faced by the Victorian lower class. It is subtitled 'A Tale of Manchester Life'.The novel begins in Manchester, where we are introduced to the Bartons and the Wilsons, two working-class families. John Barton is a questioner of the distribution of wealth and the relations between rich and poor. Soon his wife dies—he blames it on her grief over the disappearance of her sister Esther. Having already lost his son Tom at a young age, Barton is left to raise his daughter, Mary, alone and now falls into depression and begins to involve himself in the Chartist, trade-union movement.


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How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations are included Short Biography is also included Original & Unabridged Edition Tablet and e-reader formatted Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction Mary Barton is the first novel by English author Eliza How is this book unique? 15 Illustrations are included Short Biography is also included Original & Unabridged Edition Tablet and e-reader formatted Best fiction books of all time One of the best books to read Classic historical fiction books Bestselling Fiction Mary Barton is the first novel by English author Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1848. The story is set in the English city of Manchester between 1839 and 1842, and deals with the difficulties faced by the Victorian lower class. It is subtitled 'A Tale of Manchester Life'.The novel begins in Manchester, where we are introduced to the Bartons and the Wilsons, two working-class families. John Barton is a questioner of the distribution of wealth and the relations between rich and poor. Soon his wife dies—he blames it on her grief over the disappearance of her sister Esther. Having already lost his son Tom at a young age, Barton is left to raise his daughter, Mary, alone and now falls into depression and begins to involve himself in the Chartist, trade-union movement.

30 review for Mary Barton: Illustrated Platinum Edition (Free Audiobook Included)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    How to Tell if You are in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel: 1. Someone you love just died. 2. You live in an industrial wasteland, which is wrapped in a peculiarly permanent winter. 3. Your father makes terrible decisions. You love him unconditionally. 4. Someone just dropped dead. 5. You believe that starving, striking workers and their capitalist oppressors could remedy vast structural inequalities by having tea together. 6. You just spurned a man. Immediately, you realize that you are actually in love wi How to Tell if You are in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel: 1. Someone you love just died. 2. You live in an industrial wasteland, which is wrapped in a peculiarly permanent winter. 3. Your father makes terrible decisions. You love him unconditionally. 4. Someone just dropped dead. 5. You believe that starving, striking workers and their capitalist oppressors could remedy vast structural inequalities by having tea together. 6. You just spurned a man. Immediately, you realize that you are actually in love with him. But it would be unfeminine to say so. 7. You are very, very hungry. 8. Typhoid. 9. Your friends are spinsters. One of them dresses her cow in flannel. You find this endearing. 10. You, your future spouse, and some spinsters are the only people still alive.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Granger

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It offers an important perspective on the rich/poor divide in Victorian Manchester. It was written for middle class readers who were unaware of the realities of working class life, and it's so interesting to hear the corresponding narrative voice (which, whilst not omniscient, knows both halves of experience and why all people are intrinsically the same). Funny, engaging and worth reading. I can't believe it hasn't got more hype! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It offers an important perspective on the rich/poor divide in Victorian Manchester. It was written for middle class readers who were unaware of the realities of working class life, and it's so interesting to hear the corresponding narrative voice (which, whilst not omniscient, knows both halves of experience and why all people are intrinsically the same). Funny, engaging and worth reading. I can't believe it hasn't got more hype!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    "She knew she was very pretty; the factory people as they poured from the mills, and in their freedom told the truth (whatever it might be) to every passer-by, had early let Mary into the secret of her beauty." Sharing the above quote may lead one to believe that this book is about a vain, and perhaps silly, young woman. And that would be partly true. However, this fairly dense Victorian-era novel is much more than that. This is my third piece by Elizabeth Gaskell, and apparently I am reading the "She knew she was very pretty; the factory people as they poured from the mills, and in their freedom told the truth (whatever it might be) to every passer-by, had early let Mary into the secret of her beauty." Sharing the above quote may lead one to believe that this book is about a vain, and perhaps silly, young woman. And that would be partly true. However, this fairly dense Victorian-era novel is much more than that. This is my third piece by Elizabeth Gaskell, and apparently I am reading them in a backwards sort of fashion, having started with her last (Wives and Daughters - an absolute favorite!) and now reading her first. Sandwiched between the two is North and South, which I felt to be a bit more sophisticated than Mary Barton. Both deal with similar issues – that of the clash between the working classes and the mill-owners, or ‘masters’, of nineteenth century England. Mary Barton comes from a poor, working class family. Her father, John Barton, is a staunch supporter of worker’s rights. Mary’s beauty catches the eyes of many, including a fellow childhood friend of intelligent mind but lesser means, and the powerful, wealthy son of a factory owner. Mary comes across as kind-hearted and a delight to those who love her, but she is childish and ambitious. Truly loving her father, she believes she can improve his lot by pursuing one above her station, Mr. Harry Carson, while rejecting the advances of the ever-loyal Jem Wilson. The reader feels less than sympathetic towards her initially as a result, but then again one must recall that she is but a teenager when the story begins. What teen is not guilty of a bit of ambition? "Yes! Mary was ambitious, and did not favour Mr. Carson the less because he was rich and a gentleman. The old leaven, infused years ago by her aunt Esther, fermented in her little bosom, and perhaps all the more, for her father’s aversion to the rich and the gentle. Such is the contrariness of the human heart, from Eve downwards, that we all, in our old-Adam state, fancy things forbidden sweetest." While Mary conducts her secret meetings with her gentlemanly lover, her father becomes increasingly involved in the trade unions. He is sent as a delegate to Parliament and his voice falls on indifferent ears. John Barton has further become beaten down time and time again, having lost loved ones to death and blaming all on the ‘masters’. His is a dark descent into despair and anger. "The mind became soured and morose, and lost much of its equipose. It was no longer elastic, as in the days of youth, or in times of comparative happiness; it ceased to hope. And it is hard to live on when one can no longer hope… And so day by day, nearer and nearer, came the diseased thoughts of John Barton." Mary Barton, the novel not the girl, also has a further element of crime and mystery at its core. This device helps to move what tends to be a heavy plot at a quicker pace and to allow certain characters, Mary in particular, to exhibit some growth. I found this aspect very appealing as the writing had a tendency to be a bit plodding (and preachy) at times, particularly towards the end. If you had to choose between this and North and South, I would say pick up the latter. Gaskell has fine-tuned her style by that time, and you will learn just as much about the social importance of the class distinctions, the plight of the poor, and the understanding that all need to work together in order to achieve improved working and living conditions, as is the right of every human being. (Plus, if you pick up North and South, you can then treat yourself to the BBC production starring Richard Armitage, which I have gushed about in my review of that book!) If you, like me, are a devoted fan of Gaskell, then both deserve a reading. "Unaccustomed wonder filled his mind at the reflection of the different lots of the brethren of mankind."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    In the grim industrial city of Manchester, England around the latter part of the decade, of the 1830's, people are actually starving to death, especially the little ones... the poor parents cannot feed... those...Murder follows as naturally as water flows to the lowest level... A love triangle ensues between the amorous competitors , Jem Wilson a working -class engineer and Henry Carson, the son of a wealthy businessman for the affections of the delightful Miss Mary Barton , (she has high ambiti In the grim industrial city of Manchester, England around the latter part of the decade, of the 1830's, people are actually starving to death, especially the little ones... the poor parents cannot feed... those...Murder follows as naturally as water flows to the lowest level... A love triangle ensues between the amorous competitors , Jem Wilson a working -class engineer and Henry Carson, the son of a wealthy businessman for the affections of the delightful Miss Mary Barton , (she has high ambitions) but will not end well. Her father's feelings of great hatred , keeps the secret second man, a secret ... Still the most weak and vulnerable, the children continue to succumb quietly in their small beds, as the mothers and fathers look helplessly , and slowly the shrunken bodies, fade away. Trade brings prosperity but when there is none the opposite arrives... bleakness. Elizabeth Gaskell gives light to the dark and confronts the establishment , who don't want the rays to show the ugly. YET IT EXISTS, nobody cares , parliament kicks the can down the road, since the members have a full stomach, let others interested take the initiative, citizens die everyday, so what is the problem ? This novel about the Barton and Wilson families, drab lives, revealed to the public the suffering of the wretched to a society that did not want to know. Mary Barton the pretty daughter of a radical union organizer, John Barton, who blames the rich bosses for the many deaths, that have occurred ( beloved wife included) , is in the middle of an unending struggle, she must take sides, love or family. As politics rears its head, the truth vanishes too, as is always the custom. If your beliefs are not correct then change the facts...after a while you will not notice the difference, anything of blackness, as the town's air usually is. A splendid book for those who like to visit the not always great past, a joyous experience it isn't to be sure, but a necessary one. Be warned though, the story like other Victorian novels is quite hard going, painful in spots for the casual readers, than again life is the same...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved a Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved and children died and children died, while their employers lived off the fat of the land. The exploitation and suffering of the British poor at this time was every bit as cruel and exploitative as that of the slaves in the colonies. The novel captures the clashes of the time between the wealthy employers and the labourers is dramatized by personal struggles. Central to the story is the trade unionist and his daughter Mary Barton caught between two lovers of opposing classes, the honest young worker Jem and the son of an industrialist Henry Carson. The 'fallen woman' Esther is to me perhaps the most tragic figure of the novel. determined to save Mary from what she sees as similar fate (Esther was jilted too by a soldier who pretended he loved her and forced to sell her body to survive) , though she sees her own life as all but destroyed. Hence the despised street prostitute shows great inner nobility of character. Mary Barton is important reading to gain an insight into working class life in the 19th century. And that of the exploitation by employers. It helps us understand the why the native British working classes have had a history of suffering and exploitation every bit as cruel as their counterparts who originated in the Third world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Mary Barton is a wonderful failure of a novel, in all of the classic Victorian ways–the love plot is overwrought, the ending is melodramatic, the moralizing is far too heavy, and the epigraphs are obnoxious. But, somehow, in the middle of all those problems, Elizabeth Gaskell manages to capture perfectly something important. Mary Barton is a "Condition of England" novel, a meditation on the plight of Manchester cotton weavers in the depression of the early 1840's. This is the Manchester of Freid Mary Barton is a wonderful failure of a novel, in all of the classic Victorian ways–the love plot is overwrought, the ending is melodramatic, the moralizing is far too heavy, and the epigraphs are obnoxious. But, somehow, in the middle of all those problems, Elizabeth Gaskell manages to capture perfectly something important. Mary Barton is a "Condition of England" novel, a meditation on the plight of Manchester cotton weavers in the depression of the early 1840's. This is the Manchester of Freidrich Engels, where people live in squalor so deep that it surpasses comprehension. Engels, however, in what I've read from his account, utterly dehumanizes the people he examines. The citizens of his Manchester slums almost literally become their own excrement. Gaskell, on the other hand, has faced an onslaught of criticism for her "tidy" Manchester. Her very "tidiness" though, makes her message more effective. She cuts away the filth, but not the starvation or disease that haunted Manchester. She suppresses the reality only enough to draw out sympathy from an audience who understood child mortality, say, in a way that they didn't understand inadequate sewage systems. She denies the terror of Manchester life only enough to make it more imaginable. Gaskell's Manchester is, at its surface, a relentlessly didactic world–a constant circle of learning one's Christian Duty–but the didacticism is founded on something that, somehow, seems more genuinely human than anything Dickens or Eliot ever manage to find.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Mary Barton is the very first novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Living in the industrial city of Manchester and having first hand witnessed the poor living condition and suffering of the working class, Gaskell was inspired to write a novel that brings to light their poverty and suffering. In Mary Barton, Gaskell gives a true and heartfelt account on the lives of these working-class men and women. The suffering they undergo due to the want of the basic needs for human survival such as food, Mary Barton is the very first novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell. Living in the industrial city of Manchester and having first hand witnessed the poor living condition and suffering of the working class, Gaskell was inspired to write a novel that brings to light their poverty and suffering. In Mary Barton, Gaskell gives a true and heartfelt account on the lives of these working-class men and women. The suffering they undergo due to the want of the basic needs for human survival such as food, proper clothing and other basic facilities to warm them against the chilly English weather and the sicknesses and death which are so common due to their unhygienic living conditions and lack of nutritious food is sympathetically and almost passionately portrayed that it was a pure emotional struggle to read of them. One can only imagine how keenly the author felt on these matters having personally witnessed their lives and living conditions. Amidst this dire setting, Gaskell weaves a beautiful story of love and loyalty. When Mary Barton, a working-class girl, is pursued by two lovers, one being a mill owner's son (Harry Carson) and thus above her class and the other being a family friend (James Wilson) of her own class, this young vain beauty prefers the former. But soon she understands that her heart truly belongs to James and is determined to win him back. But when her true love is accused of the murder of Harry Carson, her loyalty, courage, and strength are tested. And the accidental discovery of the true culprit makes matters worse as Mary realizes saving her lover may also lead to losing another too dear to her heart. The character of Mary Barton was not likable at first. She is vain and is driven by an ambitious heart. Her beauty being her only asset, she makes conscious use of it hoping to remove herself from the class to which she belongs and to step into the world of the rich. Many a time I felt that she needs a good shaking to make her see her foolishness. However, Gaskell lifts her from there and slowly and steadily develops her character from the vain and silly young girl to a brave and courageous young woman who, armed with love and loyalty, walks through a difficult path to save the life of the man she loves, making her yet another lovable Gaskell heroine. Most of the rest of the characters of the novel were chosen from different sections of the working class. Gaskell's reason behind this choice is to show to the world the different sides of men and women belonging to this class, their talents, and their interests. She wanted the world to know that these are human beings, equally worthy of recognition. In addition, there is also a subplot developed on the relationship between masters and the workers. Working-class laid all their miseries on the doorstep of the masters. They believed that the masters didn't do enough to alleviate their suffering. This settled idea was one major reason for the constant rift between the two sides. This led to many forceful demands being made by the workers on their masters which were proudly and indignantly met and ignored. And the lack of proper communication and the ego of both sides led to some detrimental actions being made by both sides with certain dreadful consequences. Gaskell presents all this through her subplot earning major criticism in her day that her portrayal of the matter was far fetched. However, for the author's part, she firmly believed the lack of communication to be a major barrier to the peaceable relations between the two fractions. In Mary Barton, Gaskell tells her tale with so much feeling. Her sympathy for the working class is obvious. The beautiful and passionate writing of hers pours this sympathy into the hearts of the readers connecting them with the story and the characters and through them, with the working class. The writing is also full of suspense as a murder takes place and a race against time was made to clear the falsely accused before his innocent life is taken. This was an excellent read overall. I was truly surprised by the outcome, for I was not expecting it given this novel being a less popular work by the author. And I also see this novel as a sort of a prequel to her more popular work, North and South where the theme of master-worker conflict was taken up and developed.

  8. 4 out of 5

    K.

    Okay, I am turning into a major E. Gaskell fan. I absolutely loved this book. It was her first, and got a bit melodramatic in places, but I think she made it work. "North and South" was definitely better crafted, but this was just as good a story. Gaskell wrote at the same time as Dickens, Industrial Age Britian. She lived in Manchester (trade town) and knew the condiditions there very well. She does a great job at describing the real living circumstances of the rich and poor. The book is absolu Okay, I am turning into a major E. Gaskell fan. I absolutely loved this book. It was her first, and got a bit melodramatic in places, but I think she made it work. "North and South" was definitely better crafted, but this was just as good a story. Gaskell wrote at the same time as Dickens, Industrial Age Britian. She lived in Manchester (trade town) and knew the condiditions there very well. She does a great job at describing the real living circumstances of the rich and poor. The book is absolutely gripping in its portrayal of the very poor working people. Loved it. Will buy it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel and it shows. It's signficantly less assured than her better known works, North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The eponymous heroine is at times annoying (although she grows in stature as the work progresses) and the narrative has a number of those features which make some readers avoid Victorian fiction: a leisurely pace, wordiness, preachiness, sentimentality and melodrama. The novel starts very slowly. At the half-way mark the pace picks This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel and it shows. It's signficantly less assured than her better known works, North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The eponymous heroine is at times annoying (although she grows in stature as the work progresses) and the narrative has a number of those features which make some readers avoid Victorian fiction: a leisurely pace, wordiness, preachiness, sentimentality and melodrama. The novel starts very slowly. At the half-way mark the pace picks up and it turns into an interesting court room drama, which would be even more interesting if the outcome had not been predictable. The last quarter of the novel falls off somewhat, as Gaskell's preaching kicks into high gear. That said, Gaskell writes well and is a good storyteller, notwithstanding the signficant implausibility of some parts of the narrative, such as (view spoiler)[ the fact that all it takes for Mary to realise she is in love with Jem is to reject his proposal of marriage (hide spoiler)] . In addition, the setting of the novel - Manchester between 1837 and 1842, torn apart by industrial strife between mill owners and factory hands - is inherently interesting. Gaskell depicts the plight of the poor with sympathy, although her suggested cure for the devastating consequences of working class poverty - (view spoiler)[ an increase in philanthropic and charitable activities by the factory-owning class (hide spoiler)] - reveals her own social conservatism. Gaskell was not arguing for the abolition of either capitalism or the class system. Notwithstanding the weaknesses of the work, I very much enjoyed listening to the audiobook narrated by the truly wonderful Juliet Stevenson. Even when it was at its most predictable, the narrative still held my interest. It's not destined to be up there with my favourite Gaskell novels, but I still liked it a lot, somewhere between 3-1/2 and 4 stars worth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    After having read "North and South" quite a long time ago I had forgotten why this woman was a master in storytelling. Because it seems impossible that a novel written in the classic way, with long sentences and a "stiff" structure with ancient vocabulary and dealing with the pros and conts of the revolutionary working class in the industrial England of the late XIXth century, might engage the reader the way that "Mary Barton" does. Even with all these formal constraints Gaskell manages to transmi After having read "North and South" quite a long time ago I had forgotten why this woman was a master in storytelling. Because it seems impossible that a novel written in the classic way, with long sentences and a "stiff" structure with ancient vocabulary and dealing with the pros and conts of the revolutionary working class in the industrial England of the late XIXth century, might engage the reader the way that "Mary Barton" does. Even with all these formal constraints Gaskell manages to transmit such contained emotion that sometimes I didn't realise I had stopped breathing with anxiety. Mary Barton is a working class girl, daughter of an impoverished widowed man. Her pretty face catches the attention of Mr. Carson one of the wealthy lads of Manchester and the possibility of seeing the end of their meagre existence leads her to dismiss her true love, Jem Wilson with dreadful consequences for all of them. Partly historical and sociological thriller which portrays the situation of a whole generation and the start of what we call progress in the working system. Deeply meaningful characters who will stick to your mind long after you have closed the book. Loved it!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    Someone please help me break this curse the universe has placed on my reading life. I can't even enjoy an Elizabeth Gaskell novel now?! This was just okay. It's way longer than it needed to be, but it was neat to see some early hints at what was to come in North and South. Someone please help me break this curse the universe has placed on my reading life. I can't even enjoy an Elizabeth Gaskell novel now?! This was just okay. It's way longer than it needed to be, but it was neat to see some early hints at what was to come in North and South.

  12. 4 out of 5

    ☯Emily

    I have never understood why Elizabeth Gaskell is not better known. She was a contemporary of Dickens and a much better writer. Both HARD TIMES by Dickens and MARY BARTON by Gaskell deal with the terrible plight of the working poor during the 1840s and 1850s. Gaskell's characters are realistically drawn as opposed to Dicken's exaggerated comical characters. Mrs. Gaskell shows how factory workers lived in terribly squalid conditions and the affect this had on Mary Barton's father. There is a murde I have never understood why Elizabeth Gaskell is not better known. She was a contemporary of Dickens and a much better writer. Both HARD TIMES by Dickens and MARY BARTON by Gaskell deal with the terrible plight of the working poor during the 1840s and 1850s. Gaskell's characters are realistically drawn as opposed to Dicken's exaggerated comical characters. Mrs. Gaskell shows how factory workers lived in terribly squalid conditions and the affect this had on Mary Barton's father. There is a murder which leads to a thrilling trial. The suspense was skillfully done, leaving me unwilling to put the book down. This novel should lead to an interest in the social and economic realities of England in the mid-1800s. An even cursory investigation will reveal that Mrs. Gaskell did not exaggerate the conditions or the squalor of that time. There are many deaths in the book, but that was the reality for the factory worker and his family.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    As brilliant this time as it was the first. This is probably the most exciting and page-turner Victorian books out there, and is highly worth everybody's time. As brilliant this time as it was the first. This is probably the most exciting and page-turner Victorian books out there, and is highly worth everybody's time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I'm calling this one read because it took me nearly three weeks to get just past the halfway point, and I don't think I'm a slow reader. Will I try it again? Probably, because I bought the book. But I don't recommend it to others. I really enjoy Gaskell's writing. But this book is so depressing. Maybe it gets better, but it's too much of a downer for me right now. I expected a love story with the social commentary off to the side. It's pretty much the opposite, and I'm not sure exactly where the I'm calling this one read because it took me nearly three weeks to get just past the halfway point, and I don't think I'm a slow reader. Will I try it again? Probably, because I bought the book. But I don't recommend it to others. I really enjoy Gaskell's writing. But this book is so depressing. Maybe it gets better, but it's too much of a downer for me right now. I expected a love story with the social commentary off to the side. It's pretty much the opposite, and I'm not sure exactly where the love story is. It's in there somewhere, but it's probably hiding in the poverty, starvation and death. Another note: Why is this book called "Mary Barton"? She may be the main character, but I don't feel I know her well at all. She is a flat, "good" girl. I was really hoping she'd develop beyond that, but I haven't seen it after 220 pages, so I doubt I will at this point. I know her the least of any of the characters. This book is making a Point. And I agree with the Point! I agree very strongly. But I don't need to be beaten into a bloody pulp with it. Having given up this book, I feel like I've thrown a big rock off my back. Relief! If you choose to read this, realize going in that it's not an uplifting read, and then it may work much better for you.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    I love Gaskell’s writing (Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorites), and things were going swimmingly for the first half of Mary Barton. It’s about a group of working-class families living in Manchester, and brilliantly details the poverty and class tensions created by the Industrial Revolution. But from the middle onwards it becomes a glacial crime drama, and the ending chapters feature some of the least believable, most heavy-handed Christian sermonizing I’ve ever read. It’s the kin I love Gaskell’s writing (Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorites), and things were going swimmingly for the first half of Mary Barton. It’s about a group of working-class families living in Manchester, and brilliantly details the poverty and class tensions created by the Industrial Revolution. But from the middle onwards it becomes a glacial crime drama, and the ending chapters feature some of the least believable, most heavy-handed Christian sermonizing I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of ending that’s designed to bestow a lesson on readers, at the expense of the characters’ personalities and priorities. I still recommend this to anyone who’s enjoyed Gaskell before, but if you’re new to her work, pick up North and South or Wives and Daughters instead.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a good enough book. I think it was a very good attempt at showcasing the social conflict of Gaskell's era. Most of her characters are complex and I think the writing was quite good. It just didn't grab me though and I found a lot of it to be uninteresting. This was a good enough book. I think it was a very good attempt at showcasing the social conflict of Gaskell's era. Most of her characters are complex and I think the writing was quite good. It just didn't grab me though and I found a lot of it to be uninteresting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    First, I agree with other reviewers that Mary Barton is not quite of the same caliber as her other novels. Second, Mary Barton is not the most likeable of characters and it would have been nice if someone had hauled off and given her a good smack. On the other hand, once I started to read,it was impossible to put down!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Your heart would have ached to have seen the man, however hardly you might have judged his crime.” This is what fiction does for us—allows us to “see the man,” to walk in his shoes. In this story, we “see” Manchester, England in the 1830’s. We see a working man who is without work, a man who watched his son die from lack of nourishment. We see a young woman tempted to give up everything she loves for some basic comforts. We see their neighbors and friends struggle—not always successfully--to sus “Your heart would have ached to have seen the man, however hardly you might have judged his crime.” This is what fiction does for us—allows us to “see the man,” to walk in his shoes. In this story, we “see” Manchester, England in the 1830’s. We see a working man who is without work, a man who watched his son die from lack of nourishment. We see a young woman tempted to give up everything she loves for some basic comforts. We see their neighbors and friends struggle—not always successfully--to sustain their sanity and their lives. This all sounds very grim, but Gaskell has a hopeful style of writing that balances out the pain of her subject matter. It seems George Eliot considered this a “silly novel” (Gaskell and millinery novels were mentioned in her essay “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.”) It sounds like she thought they lacked originality and that the writing did not demonstrate adequately the benefit of educating women. Eliot provides a wonderful demonstration of the value of education—her books are an education in themselves. But I get the feeling from reading both that Gaskell understands poverty from a closer viewpoint. So there’s value in both writers, of course. What makes this one good is not vivid characterization or beautiful passages of description. It is the attempt to accurately show the plight of the poor-- even when it is full of death and sorrow, to not turn your face from it. This comes through so strongly that it is mesmerizing. “Don’t think to come over me with the old tale, that the rich know nothing of the trials of the poor. I say, if they don’t know, they ought to know.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marquise

    I can't believe I'm giving a Gaskell novel this low a rating... And yet, I can't but rate it so. The storytelling is deficient despite the plot being theoretically sound, and there’s too much mawkishly romantic melodrama from early on, to which you have to add dialogue that sounds as trite as this example between the protagonist, Mary Barton, and her suitor: "I tell you, Jem, it cannot be. Once for all, I will never marry you." "And is this the end of all my hopes and fears? the end of my life, I m I can't believe I'm giving a Gaskell novel this low a rating... And yet, I can't but rate it so. The storytelling is deficient despite the plot being theoretically sound, and there’s too much mawkishly romantic melodrama from early on, to which you have to add dialogue that sounds as trite as this example between the protagonist, Mary Barton, and her suitor: "I tell you, Jem, it cannot be. Once for all, I will never marry you." "And is this the end of all my hopes and fears? the end of my life, I may say, for it is the end of all worth living for!" His agitation rose and carried him into passion. "Mary, you'll hear, maybe, of me as a drunkard, and maybe as a thief, and maybe as a murderer. Remember! when all are speaking ill of me, you will have no right to blame me, for it's your cruelty that will have made me what I feel I shall become. You won't even say you'll try and like me; will you, Mary?" said he, suddenly changing his tone from threatening despair to fond, passionate entreaty, as he took her hand and held it forcibly between both of his, while he tried to catch a glimpse of her averted face. Why are Victorian writers so fond of overwrought and over-the-top theatrics and sentimental drama? Why do they favour it over telling the story competently instead? Because this one had a great idea for a plot: a murder carried out on a mill owner, in which the female lead's father and sweetheart are suspected by turns. There's ideological and class tensions between the moneyed mill-owning industrialists and the factory workers and Union leaders, with a side of family and community difficulties for extra flavour, that'd have provided with plenty of thrilling drama on its own, if Gaskell had handled the execution of the premise better. Instead, we got a run-of-the-mill (pun intended) weak plot centred round solving what's perhaps the most predictable of all murder mysteries I've read recently, and the characters are either excitable and babbling-prone stereotypes or plain flat. There's an irritatingly predictable resolution to the murder, with me being able to tell the identity of the murderer pages and pages and pages before the revelation point. Rather anti-climactic. Clearly, ‘tis been quite the disappointment in so many ways...

  20. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    'Mary Barton, or It's Grim Oop North' One doesn't like to fall back on cliches like the above, but the Manchester Tourist Board is never going to give a back cover blurb for this novel. Death, disease and destitution stalk the streets of the city which is seemingly a series of run-down slums, where a fall in demand for cotton can see whole families starve to nothing; where a flirtation with one of a higher class can lead to disgrace and possibly murder; where high passions are fermented even thro 'Mary Barton, or It's Grim Oop North' One doesn't like to fall back on cliches like the above, but the Manchester Tourist Board is never going to give a back cover blurb for this novel. Death, disease and destitution stalk the streets of the city which is seemingly a series of run-down slums, where a fall in demand for cotton can see whole families starve to nothing; where a flirtation with one of a higher class can lead to disgrace and possibly murder; where high passions are fermented even through the want and hunger. Yes, it’s melodramatic; yes these are the very streets Catherine Cookson stalked for decades (much to ITV Drama’s delight), but actually I enjoyed it more than I did George Gissing’s ‘Demos’. ‘Demos’ feels academic, a book that doesn’t want to get its fingers dirty. ‘Mary Barton’ is mired in dirt, it doesn’t stint from the filth of those dark, dingy, filthy and cobbled streets. But more importantly, it’s a book with a strong, beating human heart. There’s a whole raft of characters here that the narrative is determined that you understand, empathise with and even love. The book makes them real, gives them the air of life and asks the reader to forgive them their foibles (and even their greater sins), then be happy at any hope which comes their way. Okay, it ain’t subtle. The working folk are good natured but down trodden, the employers and masters are harsh and unfeeling. Any reader wanting a nuanced and rounded view of labour relations in the North West of England in the Victorian age should look elsewhere. It’s also fair to say that the book builds to a big courthouse crescendo, before tapering off quite substantially. But despite these flaws (and one of those isn’t really a flaw in what is a polemic), Gaskell captures this world with incredible skill and brio, creating her characters with such thoughtfulness and care that even when they behave surprisingly it seems to derive from a real place, to give us a passionate steam-powered – and soot covered – book, which tries to let sunlight through to even the dankest corners.

  21. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Although I didn’t realize it, this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and by happy circumstance it was also my first to read by her. There were any number of favorable things which could be said about the novel, such as Gaskell’s portrayal of a manufacturing town class struggle during an economic crisis, family politics on both sides of that contention or the simple, clean plot. But what completely won me over were the clear ethical choices in the story. It wasn’t overtly didactic or preachy. It Although I didn’t realize it, this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and by happy circumstance it was also my first to read by her. There were any number of favorable things which could be said about the novel, such as Gaskell’s portrayal of a manufacturing town class struggle during an economic crisis, family politics on both sides of that contention or the simple, clean plot. But what completely won me over were the clear ethical choices in the story. It wasn’t overtly didactic or preachy. It was illustrative in that a character would be up against some insurmountable foe/obstacle and though it meant going against his own best interest(s) he would choose based on what was the right thing to do or some higher moral purpose, rather than what was in his own interests. Not all characters and not all the time, of course, or it would be very tedious. There was conflict and villains. Moral relativists would hate this book! 3.5, but the extra ½ point for knowing and showing right from wrong. I will read more by Gaskell.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    This is a novel clearly of its time and place, and if you can get your head into that zone (early 1800s in Manchester), you may enjoy it more than I did. At times I found it preachy, boring and full of poetic references that didn’t seem that interesting to me. The novel seemed overly long. However, it does have a moving plot, and some interesting characters.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    What if Bessie Higgins and her father from North and South were made the central characters of a novel, and Mr. Thornton was murdered? You'd end up with something like Mary Barton. And while it was a good book, it's just...it's just not North and South, which is one of my all-time favourites. Mary Barton is a much harder read. Set in a similar time and place, with the same core issues (condition of England, masters vs. workers, etc) Mary Barton focuses on the lowliest of the poor of Manchester, g What if Bessie Higgins and her father from North and South were made the central characters of a novel, and Mr. Thornton was murdered? You'd end up with something like Mary Barton. And while it was a good book, it's just...it's just not North and South, which is one of my all-time favourites. Mary Barton is a much harder read. Set in a similar time and place, with the same core issues (condition of England, masters vs. workers, etc) Mary Barton focuses on the lowliest of the poor of Manchester, giving them a voice and a story. Gaskell takes people who know nothing but work and have nothing but each other, and makes them the central characters of her novel. It is both uplifting and disheartening. I don't think I'd ever read a book that focused solely on the poor. I've read my share of Victorian novels which included poor characters, but this is my first one where it focuses solely on them and where they are the heroes, with middle-class characters being secondary (although still majorly important to the overall plot). There were many aspects that were interesting, and on the whole I did like this book, but it was hard. Man, it was hard. I mean, first of all this book deals with issues very much removed from our reality, without possessing any of the escapist qualities found in other literature of the same time period, giving us incentive to lose ourselves in history. Mary Barton is no tea-party Victorian novel, nor a sweeping romance or an epic adventure. It is a story of the poor, who simply are and work. It could be very difficult at times to remain interested in the plot, encountering hardship and misery and endless character deaths. This is not a joyful, happy book. It's hard to read because the characters' lives are so hard. And yet, there are so many wonderful qualities about this book. The strong sense of community, the pride in being able to invite someone over for tea, the amazing bonds of friendship, the sheer force of will to keep going and keep working to survive and protect those you love...it's all there, amidst all the hardships and trials. And even though it deals with a problem no longer relevant to us in this way, it's still an eye-opener from a historical standpoint, and I think it's still a good thing to read about such things, however unpleasant. It was, after all, an important chapter of life in the Victorian era. I'm not sure if I would have read this book of my own will. Having read and loved North and South, I was naturally interested in reading other works by Gaskell, but I rather had Wives and Daughters on my radar first. As it was, this was the last novel we got to in my 19th century literature class before classes got cancelled. We started it at the busiest time of the year and I had no time to read, so I listened to most of it on audiobook (Tony Foster's excellent narration is available on YouTube) while working in the studio. Not gonna lie, it wasn't exactly motivating. I needed something cheery, and this just wasn't it. Although the timing with this book and everything that's going on right now might not have been the best, I still liked Mary Barton, enough to finish it of my volition after everything got cancelled, and enough to enjoy several parts of it. The middle chapters where the action picked up were very good, and even though I found the last quarter dragged on too long, I was satisfied with the ending and glad I had made it through. Gaskell is an excellent writer and there is no doubt that Mary Barton is objectively most excellent, however harsh and miserable it can be to read. So I DO recommend it, but...I recommend North and South even more, because it both deals with the issues raised in Mary Barton, AND it's got a sweeping romance and is overall much more enjoyable to read ;) ;)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I'm not sure why I feel the need to read 19th century women's British lit, but I always go back to it, whether it's re-reading Austen or trying out new titles and authors. At first it was reading anything by Austen or that was Austenesque in period, satire, and romance. Now I've come to love reading the formal British diction and grammar - long sentences, Hackney London accents, and all. It's also an interesting way to learn about and live the historical period. That said, I've read Gaskell befo I'm not sure why I feel the need to read 19th century women's British lit, but I always go back to it, whether it's re-reading Austen or trying out new titles and authors. At first it was reading anything by Austen or that was Austenesque in period, satire, and romance. Now I've come to love reading the formal British diction and grammar - long sentences, Hackney London accents, and all. It's also an interesting way to learn about and live the historical period. That said, I've read Gaskell before and I wasn't disappointed this time around. The murder mystery and melodramatic romance of Mary Barton were engaging, but I found the poverty of Manchester factory life and the fully rendered characters and their rich relationships, which Gaskell captures so well, most worthwhile. Almost as good as North and South.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I did not love this nearly as much as North and South, but over the course of the novel I grew more and more fond of it. The characterization is not as superb as in N&S, but I did come to know most of the characters quite well. There are a few passages in the middle devoted to a mermaid, which certainly won me over! Overall, this felt like a first novel when compared to N&S, but that makes me more eager to pick up the later works of Gaskell!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: public domain freebie on Kindle or was it directly from Gutenberg.com? Anyhow, a perfectly acceptable free copy which is one of the things I love about the internet. Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory hand who's an ardent Chartist (prototypical trade unionist) in an 1800s Manchester hit by economic hardship. She is loved by childhood friend Jem Wilson but has her eye on handsome Harry Carson, the boss's son. After Harry is assassinated and Jem is accused of the Where I got the book: public domain freebie on Kindle or was it directly from Gutenberg.com? Anyhow, a perfectly acceptable free copy which is one of the things I love about the internet. Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory hand who's an ardent Chartist (prototypical trade unionist) in an 1800s Manchester hit by economic hardship. She is loved by childhood friend Jem Wilson but has her eye on handsome Harry Carson, the boss's son. After Harry is assassinated and Jem is accused of the murder Mary is desperate to save him (view spoiler)[(she had already realized she loved him all along) (hide spoiler)] but can she do so without revealing the real murderer? Because that would also destroy her. This was Mrs. Gaskell's first novel and it's definitely not written with anything like as much assurance or finesse as her last, Wives and Daughters, which I reviewed last year. The plot moves along somewhat more jerkily and without that edge of sly amusement that I so liked about W&D. But as Victorian melodramas go, it's a corker with lots of deaths and excesses of violent emotion. Oh, how terrible to think of his crime, his blood-guiltiness; he who had hitherto been so good, so noble, and now an assassin! And then she shrank from him in thought; and then, with bitter remorse, clung more closely to his image with passionate self-upbraiding. Was it not she who had led him to the pit into which he had fallen? This is, as much as anything else, a story of Mary's redemption from the light-heartedness of her youth to a Woman Fit To Be Loved By a Noble Man. It really struck me how hard women had it back then; Mary's sin is to have been a flirtatious teenager, a state of existence we now celebrate. Even though the Carsons' money was self-made, Mrs. Gaskell seems to think it entirely wrong that Mary should have ever aspired to a bit of social climbing through marriage; double standards much? (view spoiler)[The example of Esther drives the point home that girls who forget their place come to a Bad End, which must have delighted her middle-class readers but what a bummer for the poor working girl! (hide spoiler)] It's interesting that while much of the novel demonstrates enormous sympathy for the plight of the factory workers, Mrs. Gaskell is not prepared to go so far as to invite them into her social circle. With all that, it's a cracking good read with some memorable scenes. A true tear-jerker, full of pathos and with many references to the Gospels because there are certainly very strong Christian themes (redemption, forgiveness, charity and the like.) You have to understand the Victorian taste for saccharine scenes and elevated moral standards to appreciate this one, but if you roll your eyes at the over-the-top writing you should still enjoy the story and characters. Not nearly as show-offy as Dickens, Gaskell writes with earnestness and although I missed her later humor, I appreciated the attempt NOT to turn her working-class characters into Punch & Judy amusements for the (presumably superior) reader as Dickens does.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This was my first go as an audio book after many years. I throughly enjoyed having the story read to me. And thank you to the National Library Service for providing audio books to those of us who have visual impairments. Now onto the review. The story takes place in Gaskell's home of Manchester in the north of England. It is a family story that is full of tragedy and misunderstandings. It also depicts the way of life of the working man during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. This sto This was my first go as an audio book after many years. I throughly enjoyed having the story read to me. And thank you to the National Library Service for providing audio books to those of us who have visual impairments. Now onto the review. The story takes place in Gaskell's home of Manchester in the north of England. It is a family story that is full of tragedy and misunderstandings. It also depicts the way of life of the working man during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. This story greatly appealed to me because I had read some of Gaskell's other works, Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley" and other history books about the working life in Northern England in the 19th Century. The main message I took away from this story was, no matter what adversity you are going through, persevere and never give up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Trudy Brasure

    I really enjoyed reading this again. It's not as wonderful as North and South or Wives and Daughters, but I enjoyed it more than Ruth or Cranford. There are so many similar elements to North and South, and the details into the lives of the working class is expanded. I don't feel the deep empathy for Mary or Jem as I do with Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Mary's struggles are much more dramatic and difficult to relate to. And we don't get to know Jem as well as we get to know John Thornton. The I really enjoyed reading this again. It's not as wonderful as North and South or Wives and Daughters, but I enjoyed it more than Ruth or Cranford. There are so many similar elements to North and South, and the details into the lives of the working class is expanded. I don't feel the deep empathy for Mary or Jem as I do with Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Mary's struggles are much more dramatic and difficult to relate to. And we don't get to know Jem as well as we get to know John Thornton. The secondary characters all come alive with their own individuality. This is one of the great pleasures of reading Gaskell. She creates very vivid characters.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    To me personally, this is far superior book than EG's most widely read novel 'North and South'. Thiugh the centeral theme of inequality of wealth and differences between capitalists and factory workers is shared by two books (EG seems to have a love for poor and underdogs), 'North and South' is, at the end of the day, a romantic novel with a 'happily ever after' that seems too fantastic and characters that don't seem capable of evil at all. Mary Barton, on other hand, has a murder in its center. To me personally, this is far superior book than EG's most widely read novel 'North and South'. Thiugh the centeral theme of inequality of wealth and differences between capitalists and factory workers is shared by two books (EG seems to have a love for poor and underdogs), 'North and South' is, at the end of the day, a romantic novel with a 'happily ever after' that seems too fantastic and characters that don't seem capable of evil at all. Mary Barton, on other hand, has a murder in its center. Thus characters are capable of evil - though often, it is argued, the acts done by them when they were 'not quite themself'; acting like Jungian archetypes. Moreover, along with a boring romantic story (the adjective 'boring' almost seems redundant before 'romantic story'), there is a tragedy in this book - the act of murder arising out of misunderstandings between workers and capitalists which benifits no one. Another thing that makes this book better is that Mary Barton is significantly better written and flawed than the goody two shoes heroine of other. The change of heart that the capitalist has in the end of the book is also not that fantastic. This is EG's first novel and one of reasons why she took to writing was to get over loss of her son and a mourning father is one of most impressive images that occur here. There are a lot of things that some reviewers consider 'flaws' in book like excessive religious and moralising tones which I don't think as faults. A good book has a part of author's personality in it and this personality can just as frequently be religious or moral. Moreover it is not EG who is religous in the end but characters who are religous and use it to examine their own characters. There are a few chapters I should like to cut to make it smaller but that seems to be my problems with most books.

  30. 5 out of 5

    K.

    The first time I read this, I really struggled with it. I think I got caught up in the love triangle element of the story to the point where I couldn't see anything else. I was also comparing it to my two favourite Gaskell books, North & South and Wives & Daughters. But on reread, letting the story stand on its own? I really enjoyed this one. It's about the lengths that someone will go to for what they believe in. It's about a teenage girl who's so infatuated with a hot, rich guy that she doesn't The first time I read this, I really struggled with it. I think I got caught up in the love triangle element of the story to the point where I couldn't see anything else. I was also comparing it to my two favourite Gaskell books, North & South and Wives & Daughters. But on reread, letting the story stand on its own? I really enjoyed this one. It's about the lengths that someone will go to for what they believe in. It's about a teenage girl who's so infatuated with a hot, rich guy that she doesn't realise she loves the guy right in front of her who's loved her for years. It's about everyday people just struggling to survive. It took me a while to get into it, and I definitely didn't like it as much as my two favourite Gaskell books of wondrousness. But it's a compelling story full of interesting characters. And it's definitely worth reading.

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